I anticipated a scrappy Northwestern team, determined to avenge the heartbreak of an overtime loss in Ann Arbor last season. Instead, I ran into a squad that was not only determined but playing with reckless abandon. For a half.
It did not take long to conclude that Northwestern's entire team hinges on Fake Kain Coulter. And their offensive line is not very good. The first Wildcat offensive series went thusly:
Then I immediately threw a foolish interception on my second play to give the ball right back, and Northwestern proceeded to get sacked again (finished with eight on the day). They punted back to me, and in four plays, I charged down the field and threw an easy touchdown pass to the corner of the end zone.
Northwestern's luck continued to go south. Fake Jake Ryan intercepted a pass to the right sideline, and I again carved up the Wildcat secondary like a piece of fish caught out of Lake Michigan.
At the start of the second quarter, Michigan is already up 14-0, but not for long.
Fake Coulter took matters into his own hands and ran option after option, plus designed QB runs, and got down the field in about a minute of game clock. Michigan's lead is cut to 14-7. Fake Devin Gardner once again threw completion after completion, and in three minutes' time, had Michigan up 21-7. Brad Nessler then informed me that Fake Gardner had broken John Navarre's single-season pass TD mark with 26 scores, and I salivated at the thought of Real Devin Gardner having 26 touchdowns through 10 games.
Northwestern relied on Fake Coulter's legs once more, making my linebackers and defensive backs fall on their faces, and with 9:45 to go in the half, they scored to make it 21-14. The ensuing kickoff yielded a 47-yard return by Fake Drew Dileo, and with the ball on the short side of the field, Michigan silenced the Evanston key-shakers with a bomb down the right sideline to give Fake Gardner touchdown number three, and a 28-14 lead with 8:30 left. That didn't stop him from throwing another boneheaded interception, though, after the defense held Northwestern to a three-and-out, and gave them the ball right back to get a third rushing touchdown to cut it to 28-21 with four minutes left.
Opting to try to put the heat on them, I got aggressive. Fake Fitzgerald Toussaint was getting first downs left and right, and I called an audible to pass down the middle. The Wildcat secondary bit on the fake, and I tossed it to Fake Devin Funchess in open field, and ran it in to make the score 35-21 with under a minute left in the half. Nessler again chimed in that Fake Gardner had broken a Chad Henne record, leapfrogging his single-season passing yards total. I thought to myself, "Who is this kid and why wasn't he playing all the ti--oh right we had Denard." I held Northwestern to some incomplete passes, and the half ended without any further annoyance.
The third quarter was thoroughly boring, and I went into clock-chewing mode for each of my possessions to keep Fake Coulter off the field. It worked, because while gaining yards between the hashes, I wiped out ten minutes of clock in the quarter, and held the lead, 35-21. The next Northwestern drive, they burned me, and ran hurry-up offense to zip into the end zone on a QB run, and at the start of the fourth quarter, Michigan held a 35-28 lead. Fake Toussaint again bailed me out on my next series, and got more first downs and over the 100-yard mark for the game. With 1:27 left in the quarter, a called toss play to the strong side saw nothing but Michigan blockers in front of Fake Toussaint, and I put the dagger in the Wildcats, up 42-28 as the quarter ended.
I wanted insurance points while burning more clock, and a slow, methodical drive got me inside the Northwestern red zone, after Fake Jeremy Gallon made a fantastic diving catch on a third down. I messed up my buttons on the next play, and Fake Toussaint ran backwards a few yards and got tackled, and then to really tick me off, got injured with a four-week ankle sprain. I got the ball back to the 15 yard line, and hooked a field goal so badly one would think I was trying to hit the band.
Northwestern could not move the ball again, and gave it back, and Fake Thomas Rawls put in some good work, getting the true dagger touchdown to put Michigan ahead 48-28 (I tried to make it 50, but failed yet again). The Wildcats got the ball back with 3:40 left, and still fought to make it a respectable defeat, but threw an interception with 2:17 remaining, and watched as Michigan left Evanston a perfect 10-0 with the Fighting Ferentzes next on their journey.
Game Eleven: At Iowa
Okay, I didn't stumble in Evanston, but surely I was going to get blindsided by Iowa on their home field, right? I mean, Michigan has trouble winning there, and there's the whole thing with pink locker rooms and blown calls two years ago...my luck has to run out.
At the onset of the game, Iowa came ready to play. Their quarterback was zipping passes to the middle of the field, scrambling around, and handing off to a slow running back that was getting five yards a carry. The Hawkeyes strolled down the field with ease, but failed passes yielded them a field goal. Michigan's first possession ended in horror thanks to a Fake Devin Gardner interception, and Iowa took advantage. Their tailback ran into the end zone untouched, and just like that I'm in a 10-0 hole.
Here we go.
Much to Iowa's dismay, my secondary came to play. Fake Raymon Taylor and Fake Desmond Morgan nabbed interceptions of errant passes, and got me in field goal position on the first, and in touchdown territory on the second. I risked a fourth and one from the half-yard line in order to plow the fullback across the plane, and it was now locked at 10-10.
Iowa continued to struggle against a tight man zone coverage scheme, and they again punted back to me after I sacked their quarterback twice. Fake Gardner got the boys down to the 22 yard line and I booted a 35-yard field goal to take the lead halfway into the second quarter. The very next play, Iowa threw another interception, and the Michigan offense torched their secondary again to build the lead after another Fake Gardner touchdown toss.
Eight minutes to go in the half, and Michigan leads 20-10.
Iowa figured out how to move the ball again, with some QB scrambles and short passing, but I clamped down inside the red zone and held them to a field goal with two minutes left.
Fake Drew Dileo gave me the opportunity to run a two-minute drill offense after a lovely 52-yard kick return, and I had all three timeouts. Iowa couldn't stop me running outside the tackles nor passing to the middle of the field, and with 26 seconds left I ran it in from the one yard-line. Michigan now leads 27-16, and I was feeling up for another experiment with the game's simulation engine.
I watched the simulation give me two more touchdowns to make it 41-16 after the third quarter, and then things got nutty. Iowa struck back with a touchdown to make it 41-23, and then they recovered a fumble in the end zone to push it to 41-30. The Hawkeyes then nabbed a safety (I am not sure how I ended up with my back against the end zone for two consecutive series), and the score suddenly changed to 41-38, and I got nervous. They had returned a kickoff 98 yards, but failed the two-point attempt, and I began to wonder if the game had it in for me.
Not so, because Michigan rattled off three touchdowns in 10 minutes, and put the game out of reach. I've now put the Hawkeyes to bed, and the only thing left to do is play the final game against Ohio State, who is ranked number two and 11-0.